QUICK NOTE: SUBCONTRACTOR PAYMENT BOND = COMMON LAW PAYMENT BOND

imagesWhat is a common law payment bond?  A common law payment bond is a bond not required or governed by a statute.  For example, if a prime contractor provides the owner a payment bond, that bond will be a statutory payment bond.  On the other hand, if a subcontractor provides the general contractor with a payment bond, that bond will be a common law payment bond.  Why?  Because there is not a statute that specifically governs the requirements of a  subcontractor’s payment bond given to a general contractor.   The subcontractor’s payment bond is aimed at protecting the general contractor (and the general contractor’s payment bond) in the event the subcontractor fails to pay its own subcontractors and suppliers.  The subcontractor’s payment bond will generally identify that claimants, as defined by the bond, are those subcontractors and suppliers the subcontractor has failed to pay.  This common law payment bond is not recorded in the public records so sometimes it can be challenging for a claimant (anyone unpaid working under the subcontractor that furnished the bond) to obtain a copy of the bond. With that said, an unpaid claimant should consider pursuing a copy of this bond in certain situations, particularly if it may not have preserved a claim against the general contractor’s statutory payment bond.

 

Common law payment bonds have a one-year statute of limitations.  This statute of limitations runs from the later of (i) one year from the claimant’s final furnishing date or (ii) one year from the general contractor’s final furnishing date if the general contractor provided a payment bond on the project.  

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.

ATTORNEY’S FEES AGAINST COMMON LAW PAYMENT BONDS

imagesOn sophisticated construction projects (federal, Florida public, or Florida private projects), it is not uncommon for a prime (general) contractor to require that certain subcontractors furnish the prime contractor a payment bond.  When the subcontractor furnishes the prime contractor a payment bond, this bond is a common law bond because it is not a bond furnished in accordance with a statutory requirement.  Unlike a statutory payment bond (whether furnished per the Miller Act, Florida Statute s. 255.05, Florida Statute s. 713.23, or Florida Statute s. 337.18) there are no statutory prerequisites in order for a claimant to preserve rights under the common law payment bond.

 

For instance, if the subcontractor that furnished a payment bond has an unpaid subcontractor or supplier, these entities can pursue claims directly against the subcontractor’s payment bond instead of the prime contractor’s (statutory) payment bond. Thus, if the subcontractor’s unpaid subcontractors or suppliers failed to preserve their rights against the prime contractor’s (statutory) payment bond, they can still pursue rights against the subcontractor’s common law payment bond.

 

In USA f/u/b/o Vulcan Materials v. Volpe Const., 622 F.2d 880 (5th Cir. 1980), an earthwork subcontractor furnished a payment bond on a federal project (where the prime contractor would have furnished a Miller Act payment bond).  The subcontractor had an unpaid supplier of fill.  Amongst other claims, the supplier sued the earthworks subcontractor’s payment bond.  The Fifth Circuit found that not only was this payment bond a common law bond, but the supplier (bond claimant) was entitled to attorney’s fees pursuant to Florida Statute s. 627.756.

 

Florida Statute s. 627.756 provides:

 

(1) Section 627.428 (entitlement to attorney’s fees) applies to suits brought by owners, subcontractors, laborers, and materialmen against a surety insurer under payment or performance bonds written by the insurer under the laws of this state to indemnify against pecuniary loss by breach of a building or construction contract. Owners, subcontractors, laborers, and materialmen shall be deemed to be insureds or beneficiaries for the purposes of this section.

 

Thus, even if the bond is a common law payment bond, an unpaid claimant can still recover their attorney’s fees.  Thus, the unpaid claimant gets the benefit of not having to comply with statutory prerequisites to preserve rights under the prime contractor’s payment bond and the recovery of attorney’s fees against a common law payment bond.

 

Please contact David Adelstein at dadelstein@gmail.com or (954) 361-4720 if you have questions or would like more information regarding this article. You can follow David Adelstein on Twitter @DavidAdelstein1.